The young Traveller stood at the corner, legs crossed, trying to look nonchalant. He had sleek black hair, wore pin-stripped trousers and had an open neck shirt under a mock leather jacket. His collar was turned up, Elvis style; very much the lad about town. His casual manner appeared to make him all the more attractive to a group of girls standing nearby. He quickly became the focus of their attention and he loved every minute of it. He flirted with the girls and filtered out each one until eventually he snared a mini skirted teenager who caught his fancy. A short time later they walked hand in hand, while the rejected girls stood in an animated huddle, unimpressed with their friend for abandoning them for this trendy adolescent. He had his life before him and all was well with his world that summer’s day.
It was New Year’s Eve 1993. Pa McCarthy had grown up in an untroubled environment, along the Canal Bank, a quiet and restful place where the Guinness barges used to dock in years gone by. Many found it an escape from the city, and a haven for those with trouble on their mind. Fifteen years had passed since that day in the marketplace when he strutted his stuff. The boy had become a man who possessed anger and rage and he went seeking trouble that night with revenge in his heart. There was a violent exchange, the flash of a blade, the scream of pain; a frantic rush to hospital and Pa’s life was no more. His brothers bore witness to that senseless killing. His family sat around the campfire, mourning his loss the night he was buried. Two faceless men emerged from the shadows with murder on their minds. The blast of a shotgun and the crack from a handgun broke the stillness of the night and another brother lay dead, with many more wounded. Two young children escaped uninjured from the mayhem. Gardai rushed to the location with flashing lights and blaring sirens. Before them was a scene of bloody chaos, an attempted family massacre, silent witnesses, a tarnished city, an outraged public and a very unhappy New Year.
It was the start of Limerick’s gangland feud.